How Irish native Alan Joyce has embraced the famous tagline ‘I still call Australia home’
It was not Joyce’s love affair with transit lounges, jet lag and inflight food services which lead him to become CEO of the flying kangaroo. Rather his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Physics and Mathematics and dream of becoming a pilot lured a young Alan Joyce into aviation.
Originating from humble beginnings Joyce’s rise to the ‘Spirit of Australia’ didn’t come without trials and tribulations.
Son of a Dublin cleaner and factory worker, Joyce had never boarded a flight until age 22, when his job as an operations research analyst at Irish airline Aer Lingus required him to relocate.
Geekishly, Joyce only applied for the job as ‘aviation was just a fancy kind of maths’ which the Trinity College graduate adored. The continuous equations of financials, schedules, risks, fatigue and loyalty were all waiting to be solved.
After falling in love with aviation Joyce applied to become a pilot at Aer Lingus but was knocked back. Joyce who now is the Chief Executive Officer of 124 aircraft and over 30,000 employees at Qantas laughs saying, “I’m probably too hyper”.
Joyce’s ‘hyper’ personality is what has helped the fortune 500 CEO manage to call Australia home.
After eight years at Aer Lingus, Joyce turned down the safe choice of a job at European carrier Ryan Air to work for Ansett in its dying days in 1993. In a move he considered ‘risky’ he was rewarded as in 2003 Joyce was to head to Qantas’ start-up subsidiary Jetstar and was announced Qantas CEO in 2008.
However, Joyce’s Irish heritage leading Australians national carrier hasn’t always been without discrimination.
Infamously, during aviation turmoil Joyce grounded the entire Qantas fleet in 2011 causing over 600 cancellations. The backlash from this decision saw death threats, smashed windscreens and racially motivated letters sent to his private Sydney residency.
“People say ‘you’re not really Australian and you don’t really know or feel why Qantas is important’.”
Joyce who has held dual citizenship with Ireland since 2003 cites the criticism as “insulting and annoying”.
“I’m very proud of this country.”
“I am an Australian, I decided to be an Australian.”
During his brief yet aggressive battle with prostate cancer Joyce realised his passion for the company he considers his pride and joy.
“What came into sharp focus in the aftermath of the cancer scare was my determination to do the right thing by Qantas and the honour it is to be CEO. I want to make sure that when I leave it’s a lot stronger . . . than when I arrived.”
As of today, Joyce is praised for his commitment to the success airline, which is something he credits to his love of the airline, our country and the people of Australia.
Joyce’s patriotism to Australia can be seen in other areas of his life like his loyalty to the Geelong Cats Football Club. His work in Indigenous literacy that has earned him an Order of Australia medal. His lobby in Canberra to restrict the airline from foreign ownership. And most significantly his commitment to ensuring Qantas food carts are stocked with locally sourced produce and national icons such as the Tim Tams, Milo and the wildly controversial Vegemite.
Now his 30th year of working in airline management and all that he has achieved does Joyce still want to fly?
“I think my eyesight to is too bad, unfortunately” but even without a licence he is still hooked on the industry; “They say the smell of kerosene gets into your blood and you become addicted.”
While Joyce still regularly returns to his home of Dublin Ireland, he remains undisputed that he still calls Australia home.
Image: The daily Telegraph